Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Breaking Down the IEP: Statement of Special Education and Related Services

Inherently, an Individualized Education Plan should include documentation of the program to be offered to the student. The IDEA requires the written IEP document to include:
"a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child...(aa) to advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals; (bb) to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum... and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and (cc) to be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities described [in the IDEA]."

20 U.S.C. section 1414(d)(1)(A)(IV).

Description of special education and related services

"Special education" includes the specially designed instruction or other specialized program to be provided to the child in order to allow that child to make progress in general education, advance towards goals, and participate in activities with peers. Specially designed instruction is a hot topic, because often when discussing instruction, issues of specific curriculum or methodologies arise.

For purposes of the IEP document, the IDEA requires a specific statement of the special education to be provided to the child. While "methodology" and specific "curriculum" may be generally within the discretion of the District, if a student requires a specific program in order to receive FAPE, it may be necessary for that program to be described in the IEP document. In any event, the IEP should contain some description of what is to be provided.

Related services include those specific services that are included in a child's program in order to meet the child's needs and provide him/her educational benefit. If a related service is required in order for the child to receive a FAPE, it should be described in the IEP document, along with details about when and how this will be provided, as will be discussed in a future post. Related services include those services listed in the IDEA, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc.

The US Department of Education has clarified that
"the amount of services to be provided must be stated in the IEP, so that the level of the agency's commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP team members. The amount of time to be committed to each of the various services to be provided must be (1) appropriate to that specific services, and (2) stated in the IEP in a manner that is clear to all who are involved in both the development and the implementation of the IEP."

Appendix A to 34 C.F.R. part 300, at Q.35.

The IEP document needs to state with specificity what services will be provided to the child. Some school districts believe that if a services is just a "part of their program" it doesn't have to be listed, but this isn't necessarily true and does not comport with what the statute requires. If the child is to be provided APE, for example, to meet his or her needs, the IEP document should state so, even if every other child in that class also happens to be provided with APE as part of the program.

Description of supplementary aids and services

Supplementary aids and services include related services, accommodations and supports, consultative services for teachers, etc. The statute specifies that supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child or on behalf of the child should be described in the IEP document. Examples of supplementary aids and services provided on behalf of the child may include training for a teacher or aid in a particular program or about a particular disability.

The phrase "supplementary aids and services" is also referred to within the language regarding Least Restrictive Environment, and it is important therefore to remember that within the requirement for a description of supplementary aids and services, the statute specifies that such supports be provided to "be involved in and make progress in general education curriculum." The presumption for Least Restrictive Environment requires that an IEP team consider the "full range of supplementary aids and services, that if provided would enable the child to participate in the general education environment," before moving that child to a more restrictive setting. See Questions and Answers on the LRE Requirements, OSERS, OSEP-95-9. Therefore, when discussing this portion of the IEP's required content, the team needs to document specifically what supports are required to ensure that the child be placed in the LRE and continue to receive an educational benefit there.

Supplementary aids and services is defined broadly as including any "aids, services and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate." 20 U.S.C. section 1401(29). Any supplementary aids and services used to support the child in the LRE must be described in the written IEP document.

"Based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable"

The written IEP document includes a statement of special education and related services "based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable." The only guidance as to what "to the extent practicable" means is found in the Analysis of Comments and Changes to 2006 IDEA Part B regulations:
"The phrase to the extent practicable generally means that services and supports should be based on peer reviewed research to the extent that it is possible, given the availability of peer reviewed research."
71 Fed. Reg. 46565 (Aug. 14, 2006)

The Education Department explained that peer-reviewed research refers to "research that is reviewed by qualified and independent reviewers to ensure that the quality of the information meets the standards of the field before the research is published." Analysis of Comments and Changes to 2006 IDEA Part B Regulations, 71 Fed. Reg. 46664 (2006).

Although the substantive issues related to instruction and services based upon peer-reviewed research, and what that means in terms of what should be provided to an individual child, is a different topic altogether, peer-reviewed research is relevant to the discussion of required content for the written IEP. Because the statute specifies that an IEP is a written document that includes a statement of special education and related services based upon peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, the written document should in fact address whether research supports the program offered by the school district. The decision of whether to write in a specific methodology into the IEP document is an IEP team decision. However, regardless of what methodology is utilized, the IEP document itself should document that it is based upon peer reviewed research, where applicable.

Relationship to Goals, General Education, and Progress

The requirement is that the IEP document special education and related services that will enable the child to make progress towards goals, participate and make progress towards general education curriculum, and be educated with and participate in activities with disabled and non-disabled peers. The IEP team must consider the goals that have been developed for the child, the child's unique needs related to his or her disability, and the child's needs related to how he/she will progress in general education curriculum, when determining what special education, related services, and supplementary aids and supports must be provided. To be clear, the IEP document should specify how the services, instruction and support will enable the child to meet his/ her goals and make progress towards general education curriculum.


This portion of an IEP's required written content may be the most complicated, and the most difficult to get right. Ultimately, if the IEP team remains focused on the child's needs, and how those needs relate to the services, instruction and supports being offered, then the document will be able to reflect clearly what will be provided and how that program provides FAPE. It is important, as with all portions of the IEP, that the District remember that ultimately, the IEP document needs to be clear enough to be understood by all of those involved in developing it and anyone potentially involved in implementing it. If sufficient details are included so that everyone can fully understand the special education and related services being offered, and parents can fully consider all aspects of the program, then a good clear IEP has been written.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful information. Would it be possible for me to link back to this post when referencing the IEP process? My blog is intended to provide a resource to persons with disabilities and their families! Feel free to stop by and take a look!

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